A friend has been arrested for sexual assault. Been held without bail since 10/01/09. Has had 2 status hearing without the state indicting him. His 3rd status hearing is set for Jan 30,10 which will be 90 days being held. On his arraignment he managed to pay $500 to a criminal defense attorney to defend him. This attorney did not get my friend released and turned to his family stating he would need $15k up front to defend this case. My friend has not heard from this attorney since his arraignment.
With no funds left the judge said he would be assigned a PD. My friend feels a PD wouldn't be qualified enough in the criminal aspect of his case. He's asked me to look for a criminal defense attorney who will defend him pro-bono.
If not indicted after 90 days don't they have to let him go?
A good resource is to see if any area law schools have pro-bono criminal defense clinics.
I'm sorry to say that this is the kind of case that attorney's avoid. I handle them and pro-bono is not an option. In fact, I've never met an attorney that would handle a case as serious as a sexual assault case that would do it pro bono. There is a stigma that is attached to this type of case and it carries out to anyone that touches it. As well, you get what you pay for seems to come to mind on a case like this. It is my sincerest belief that your efforts would be better used finding a resource for funds to raise the money for an attorney than trying to find a pro bono attorney. Also, I will say that a $15,000.00 retainer on a case like this is low!
I am happy to discuss this further with you if you wish. Call me at (617) 725-2675
Criminal Defense Attorney
I would not write off the Committee for Public Counsel Services (CPCS or public defender). They have many excellent attorneys with many years of criminal defense experience. A serious case would go to the more senior attorneys at CPCS.
Elder Law Attorney
As a former CPCS attorney (mental health and child welfare panels), i absolutely agree with Mr. Pang. In order for a CPCS attorney to qualify for practice in Superior Court, they have to have significant training and trial practice. Further, unlike a pro bono attorney, the CPCS attorney will be able to make arrangements for the state to pay the cost of investigators and experts if needed -- which I suspect will be the case here.
Criminal Defense Attorney
I agree with Mr. Pang and Ms. Golden. Often, the public defender's office (in this case the CPCS) has attorneys who have handled/defended far more sexual assault cases (or any other criminal cases) than most private attorneys. The volume of cases in a public defender's office is so great, and the availability of other experienced attorneys and investigators may well put such an office at or near the top of the heap in expertise, if not necessarily handholding. They could well be among the best qualified and the most knowledgeable attorneys available.
As Mr. Chancellor points out, not all private attorneys will take sexual assault cases, for a variety of reasons, and those who do will likely want a substantial amount of money for the legal work and investigation. You could contact the local bar association for referrals and continue trying to find someone who will work for free.
I suspect it will be difficult to find a lawyer who will work for free, unless the case is front page news and the publicity involved would be worth the time, energy and attention to some attorney who wants his name in the paper. Alternatively, there might be some unusual and important aspect to the case that could be of interest to an intellectually-oriented attorney who is semi-retired or independently wealthy. (Few cases are unusual to experienced criminal defense attorneys.)
Ask your friend if he wants a pro bono attorney, if one can be found, who may be in it for the publicity or for intellectual curiosity, or does he want an assigned counsel who knows what he or she is doing and can represent and advise your friend without any personal interests being involved. The other alternative is come up with the money for an experienced private attorney.
DISCLAIMER I do not practice law in your State. This answer is provided solely for informational purposes only. This answer does not constitute legal advice, create an attorney-client relationship, or constitute attorney advertising.